Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Busboys and Poets

Busboys and Poets, which has four locations in the metropolitan area including the Shirlington spot shown above, has become a fixture for great food, good literature and awesome performances. (Photo: News-Press)
Busboys and Poets, which has four locations in the metropolitan area including the Shirlington spot shown above, has become a fixture for great food, good literature and awesome performances. (Photo: News-Press)

It’s been nearly ten years since Andy Shallal opened the first Busboys and Poets on 14th and V Street in Washington, D.C. Since then, they’ve opened three other locations – one on 5th and K Streets near Chinatown in Washington, one in Hyattsville and one in the Arlington neighborhood, Shirlington.

The menu is the same at every location, but is as diverse as the customers who frequent the local restaurant-performance space-bookstore franchise. They do breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner and they do most of it well.

The breakfast menu at Busboys has options for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. The Vegan Egg Wrap ($10), filled with tofu scramble, mixed vegetables, vegan bacon and vegan cheese, is a fairly light, but familiar and satisfying offering. The Sweet Potato Pancakes ($9) on the brunch menu, which is only offered on the weekends from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., is a sweet way to start off a Saturday or Sunday.

If you’re trying to keep it light during brunch, lunch or dinner, the Spinach & Wheatberry Salad ($11), with baby spinach, blueberries, strawberries and roasted almonds tossed in ginger sesame vinaigrette, engages nearly your whole flavor palette. It’s a tangy, sweet, hearty and earthy delight topped with crispy Asian noodles to add a crunch to your meal.

The lunch and dinner menu also have a variety of options. Meat eaters can get the Shrimp & Crab Fritters ($10) or the Chicken Quesadilla ($9) for an appetizer. Don’t worry vegans and vegetarians – there are some even more awesome appetizer options for you.

The Coconut Tofu Bites ($8), served with plum-red pepper sauce, are a sweet and lightly salty treat that will ensure you have room for your entrée. And nothing is lost with the lack of meat in the Vegan Quesadilla ($9) – it’s just as tasty as the meat eater option.

After appetizers, Busboys has several main course options – they have Sandwich, Hot Panini, Burger, Pizza and Entrée menus with a few options in each. The Tempeh Panini ($10) with smoky tempeh topped with arugula, roasted red peppers, sautéed onions and vegan mayo, is served on levain bread and is a go-to personal favorite.

But if you’re not in the mood for a sandwich the Orzo Pasta ($14) is a great entrée. The pasta, served with sweet potatoes, asparagus, shallots, shiitake mushrooms, red pepper and kale and tossed in tomato olive oil sauce, is engaging and delicious.

All of the locations host author talks and poetry events. The 14th and V location hosts A.C.T.O.R., which stands for A Continuing Talk On Race, as a community service. The Shirlington location, the second Busboys opened by Shallal, has an open mic every Monday night from 8 – 10 p.m.

If you happen to try Busboys on a busy night, the bookstore, featuring fiction and nonfiction books on a range of topics, is a great place to kill time. This franchise, with great fare, live entertainment and literature, has truly become a fixture in the Washington-metro area.

Busboys and Poets | 4251 Campbell Ave., Arlington | 703-379-9757 | busboysandpoets.com